Actor Jay Ryan makes a welcome return to Aussie screens with a gritty role in Foxtel’s ‘Fighting Season’
Jay Ryan was a bright-eyed, bushy- tailed young actor when he first shot to fame on screens in Australia, playing Jack Scully on Neighbours way back in 2002.
“It feels like a lifetime ago,” the 37-year-old Kiwi star tells WHO. “But I do have very fond memories of that time, because it was the first time I had left New Zealand. I had a job and I was moving out into the world, and moving countries – I’m still very good friends with a bunch of people from that cast and crew, like Carla Bonner [Steph Scully], who is a good friend of mine still, and Shane Connor, who played my father.”
Fast-forward more than a decade and Ryan is now a big deal in Hollywood. He’s had a string of high-profile TV gigs and was recently cast in the lead role of the adult Ben Hanscom in the second installment of the rebooted Stephen King classic It, filming now in Toronto.
He’ll also soon be seen in Foxtel’s new drama Fighting Season, playing a returned army sergeant suffering PTSD.
The role couldn’t be more different to the character he played on the Aussie soap all those years ago.
“But it was such a great opportunity for me, Neighbours,” he concedes.
“I still get people in the States saying, ‘Oh, you were on Neighbours!’ It’s a calling card, and a familiar name they can relate to.”
Over the past decade-and-a-half, Ryan has spent the majority of his time in Los Angeles and Toronto, where several of his TV projects (Beauty and the Beast and Mary Kills People) were filmed.
He tries to make it back to New Zealand as often as he can, but thankfully, when required to travel for a role, his partner, Kiwi writer-director Dianna Fuemana, and daughter, Eve (born in 2013), have been able to accompany him.
“We always travel together – we are a bit of a mini-circus,” he explains. “We are a unit.
“It’s tough. But [it’s something] I related to with Fighting Season; that whole thing of the parents, soldiers, having to be away from their children, for, like, six months plus – and how that affects the kids, and how families have to deal with that.
“You kind of have to deal with that in the entertainment world as well, where we are always up, and out, and moving to a new place, or a new city, for another time.
“It’s tough, but I have the luxury of being able to bring my family with me, so we’re very lucky in that way.”
In Fighting Season, Ryan plays a man who returns home from the Middle East after the death of his close friend and the captain of their platoon, Ted Nordenfelt, played by Ewen Leslie. He struggles to process the guilt and the grief, and is exhibiting signs of PTSD. “It’s a sensitive subject, and I really wanted to talk to the guys and girls on the ground who had experienced [that type of thing] first-hand,” says Ryan, of his preparation for the role.
“I spoke to as many young soldiers, and soldiers that had young families, as I could. I read a little bit, but
I didn’t really want to go down the path of reading facts and figures about PTSD. For me, from speaking to some of these guys, it’s a very individual experience. So I wanted to, I guess, layer as much as I could in my own performance from what I’d discussed with these guys one-on-one.”
Fighting Season is a powerful show that attempts to accurately portray the experiences of those returning from combat, something that drew Ryan to the role. “It was the opportunity
to delve into what it’s like to be a modern ANZAC soldier,” he explains. “We don’t often see our soldiers represented in any real way, as they used to be. When they come back from war, they have to assimilate back into everyday life. And it’s kind of, the notion of how they do that? And how do they cope with that? Also the idea of bringing awareness of what our soldiers are going through.”
It’s a challenging role, but Ryan says he has learnt over the years the importance of leaving his work at work. “My family is supportive of what I do – they will tell me pretty quickly if I am being an arsehole, so it doesn’t really spill over at home.”
Fighting Season was filmed over a year ago, and Ryan admits he’s excited local audiences can finally see what they’ve been working on.
“I was allowed to watch a few episodes the other day, and it was wonderful,” Ryan says.
“I am really excited to know that it’s about to come out, and for people to see it. It’s a really important series.”
I’ve added a new promotional image of Jay and the cast of Fighting Season. I’ve got a lot more related images to sort through and add prior to the series release on October 28th, so be sure to check back.
The idea for Foxtel’s sizzling new drama series, Fighting Season emerged in a crowded US airport lounge.
Over a loud speaker came a call for military personnel to board their planes first, a simple nod to their service and a subtle thanks from a respectful nation.
As the show’s producer, Kylie du Fresne — along with her Goalpost Pictures producing partner Rosemary Blight — noted it was a shocking reminder that “in Australia, our troops are completely invisible.”
“At the same time we were seeing newspaper and magazine articles about PTSD in Australian
soldiers and we started thinking that this was really interesting subject matter that hadn’t yet been explored on Australian television,” du Fresne said.
Until now, with the six-part series — to premiere on Foxtel’s showcase channel at 8.30pm, October 28 — set to spark a national conversation about the shocking realities of our longest war in Afghanistan and the toll it takes on those serving and their families.
Starring Jay Ryan, Ewen Leslie and an impressive cast of new talent, including George Pullar and Julian Maroun, it tracks the fallout for a returned army unit, after a sortie goes fatally wrong — with the subtitle: “you don’t stop fighting just because you’re home.”
Ryan, who researched the impact of PTSD for his first major US role, in Beauty And The Beast, plays Sergeant ‘Speedo’ Collins who tries to bury his own demons with his unit commander, killed under mysterious circumstances.
His wife and young children are struggling to cope with the angry man who has come home to them, and the damaging, violent impact he is having on their lives.
As lead director Kate Woods points out: “we send these young men to war and teach them to kill and when they do, and it becomes part of their life, how do they assimilate that into themselves as human beings when they come back home? And what responsibility does the Armed Forces have for that?”
The series’ writer, Blake Ayshford was born into an air force family and welcomed the opportunity to explore some of the authentic issues being tackled by the limited series.
“We tried to deal honestly with that situation — not all people who return from war suffer from PTSD, but for those that do, it can still be a source of great shame for the soldiers themselves.”
Legacy Australia chief executive, Scott Warr welcomed the series as a way to continue raising awareness about the issues facing today’s military family and the battles personnel face after their time in service.
“It [PTSD] doesn’t affect every veteran that leaves service, but the key thing is those it does impact it does so significantly … not just on the veteran but those around them. We’re talking being disengaged from the family, to being moody, being different to what he or she was like before they went [to war] … through the whole continuum up and including, unfortunately the veterans not being able to cope with it and sadly taking their own lives.”
Warr said mental health resources and support, whether via Legacy or the Department of Veterans Affairs, had improved greatly, but broader understanding in the community about these issues was essential.
“Anything that can keep raising these questions [because] we haven’t got it all right yet. We’re still getting veterans who kill themselves and at Legacy we see the results of that. Unfortunately, the contemporary families and helping young widows are probably the only growing part of our business.”
* Fighting Season will premiere 8.30pm, October 28 on Foxtel’s showcase.
I’ve been working on the gallery and have added a ton of missing photos of Jay from his past television projects: Mary Kills People, Terra Nova, Go Girls, Offspring, and Sea Patrol. I’ve also revamped the public appearances section of the gallery and will be working on adding some additions there as well, and will later on move to other parts of the gallery including a revamp of the Beauty and the Beast section. So many updates on the way. Be sure to check the gallery and twitter for quicker updates. Enjoy!
Mary Kills People: Season Two – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Go Girls: Season One – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Go Girls: Season Two – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Go Girls: Season Three – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Go Girls: Season Four – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Terra Nova: Season One – Stills
OffSpring: Season Two – Stills
Sea Patrol: Season One – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Sea Patrol: Season Two – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes
Sea Patrol: Season Three – Posters / Promotional / Stills / Behind the Scenes